A River All Red tells a story of Yue Fei, a most celebrated general in China’s history, a legend of his resolute loyalty to his country and allegiance to his people. In the hearts of Chinese people, Yue Fei is the God of Loyalty. The Memorial Temple of Yue Fei overlooks the city of Hangzhou in China, and has thousands of visitors every day.
In addition to his loyalty, Yue Fei is also famous for his poetry. A River All Red is the best known of all his poems, a classic in Chinese literature. Beijing Opera A River All Red was first written and performed by the National Beijing Opera Company in the 1960s, which instantly gained its popularity among the opera fans for the moving story, the magnificent theatrical scenery and the beautiful music.
Beijing Opera master Li Shaochun’s memorable performance of Yue Fei has touched many souls of Chinese audience. Over the time, A River All Red has become one of the greatest and most successful productions of the National Beijing Opera Company.
The performance in London is a reproduction of the classic, which was rewritten in 2010. The leading role is played by Yu Kuizhi, the Principal Sheng (opera’s role of men) performer at the company, and the best in China. Yu has been intensively and extensively studying Li Shaochun. His stage presence repeats the glory of his predecessor, but with his own interpretation of this inspiring national hero.
Other supporting roles are also played by the company’s principal performers, such as Li Shengsu as Yue Fei’s wife.
This amusing and funny story comes from one of the plays among the Forbidden City’s collection called The Karma. As you may know, Beijing Opera has performers of four distinctive roles: Sheng (men), Dan (women), Jing (painted faces) and Chou (clowns). And in The Phoenix Returns Home, you will see all of the roles, which is quite unique in performances of Beijing Opera.
The Phoenix Returns Home is a classical show, which was first performed by Dr Mei Lanfang at Beijing in 1929. And it has been a box-office hit ever since, one of the most performed of all Beijing Operas. By playing this beautiful young lady, Dr Mei injected his interpretations of elegance, skilfulness and femininity into the character of Cheng Xue’e. His choreography of movements paid special attention to the eye expressions.
The carefully studied eye movements of his performance give this young lady a touch of grace and discipline. When writing the music, Dr Mei designed several long songs for this role, perfect for his voice with a quality of clarity and tranquillity.
The music has been so successful; they say you cannot call yourself of a fan of Mei Lanfang if you don’t know the songs of The Phoenix Returns Home. It has become Mei’s masterpiece, a textbook play for Mei’s students and fans.
Li Shengsu is a third generation Dan (women’s role) performer of Mei’s style, a student of Dr Mei Lanfang’s son, Mei Baojiu, and plays Cheng Xue’e in The Phoenix Returns Home. She has a stage presence of dignity and finesse and a voice of sweetness. Li’s mastery of acting and performing brings life to this beautiful girl in ancient China.
岳 飞 YUE, Fei: 于魁智 YU, Kuizhi
岳夫人 Mrs Yue: 李胜素 LI, Shengsu
牛 皋 NIU, Gao: 胡 滨 HU, Bin
高 宗 Emperor: 陈旭之 CHEN, Xuzhi
秦 桧 QIN, Hui: 王 越 WANG, Yue
王 氏 Mrs Wang: 刘梦姣 LIU, Mengjiao
罗汝楫 WEI, Shun: 王 珏 WANG, Jue
罗汝楫 LUO, Ruji: 陈国森 CHEN, Guosen
胡 铨 HU, Quan: 马翔飞 MA, Xiangfei
金兀术 JIN, Wushu: 刘魁魁 LIU, Kuikui
万俟卨 WAN, Moqi: 刘魁魁 LIU, Kuikui
王次翁 WANG, Ciweng: 王 珏 WANG, Jue
伊里布 Yilibu: 危佳庆 WEI, Jiaqing
程雪娥 CHENG, Xuee: 李胜素 LI, Shengsu
洪 功 HONG, Gong: 于魁智 YU, Kuizhi
穆居易 MU, Juyi: 陈旭之 CHEN, Xuzhi
程 浦 CHENG, Pu: 马翔飞 MA, Xiangfei
程夫人 Ms Cheng: 张 静 ZHANG, Jing
程雪雁 CHENG, Xueyan: 陈国森 CHEN, Guosen
朱焕然 ZHU, Huanran: 王 珏 WANG, Jue
周监军 Eunuch Zhou: 危佳庆 WEI, Jiaqing
丫 环 Maidservant: 戴忠宇 DAI, Yuzhong
丑傧相 Clown: 刘 搏 LIU, Bo